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"Thank God we can't tell the future. We'd never get out of bed."
on 27 June 2008
A dilapidated, one hundred year-old farmhouse on the plains outside Tulsa has been the home of the Weston family for generations, and Beverly Weston, the family patriarch, has long found refuge in alcohol. His termagant wife Violet takes pills, whatever pills she can lay hands on, and the two have little in common and have not really communicated for years. Bev, who once published a collection of poetry, now spends time quoting T. S. Eliot, and Eliot's line that "Life is very long..." serves as a motto for Bev in his life. Bev's Prologue sets the tone for the play, and when Act One begins, Bev has disappeared. The family has gathered to support each other while they await news on his whereabouts.
A dysfunctional family which represents just about every problem a family can have, the Westons who have gathered are the three daughters of Bev and Violet, along with Violet's sister Mattie Fay, her husband, and adult son. Barbara, at forty-six the eldest of the children, has arrived with her husband and precocious fourteen-year-old daughter. Ivy Weston, age forty-four, is unmarried, constantly resisting her mother's meddlesome probing and her cruel remarks about catching a man. Karen Weston, the youngest, at forty, has brought her fifty-year-old fiancé with her. In the course of the three hours or more of this play, the family, overwhelmed by the selfish mean-spiritedness Violet, reveals and/or deals with their self-destructive behavior on all levels--from addictions, unhappy marriages, and infidelity, to sadism, suicide, pedophilia, and even incest.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2008, the play deals with modern sensibilities but is written in the old-fashioned tradition of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, Miller's Death of a Salesman, and even Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Big, broad, and complex in its development of the family dynamics, the play maintains a surprising level of black humor, despite the level of misery within this family.
As the action reaches its climax, and the various characters must decide how they will deal with the rest of their lives, the audience sees that the decisions that are made are the only ones that can be made, given the nature of these particular people and their limitations. It would be a mistake to say that the problems are "resolved," but they are, at least, "settled" for the audience. An intense and powerful drama with enough humor to keep the action from overwhelming the audience, August: Osage County is a memorable addition to the tradition of Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams. Mary Whipple